The Raiders are the lone northern Nevada football program still competing and through four weeks of the postseason, they’ve doubled up their home game total, earning three more contests on the friendly confines of their east Sparks campus.
Reed won the Division I Northern Region championship last weekend with a 50-9 romp over Damonte Ranch. So what’s the Raiders’ reward? It’s a third date in four years against national power Bishop Gorman. The state semifinal game will kick off Saturday at 1 p.m. at Reed.
“We’ve been saying it since we got our schedule and realized we’d only have three home games for the entire regular season,” Howren said. “We told the kids we have to go out and earn playoff home games. For them to get three more home games, all because of their efforts, it’s just awesome for the kids. I’m happy they’ve put themselves in this position.”
While Reed has won its trio of regional titles over the past four years, it’s advanced to play Gorman on each occasion. Gorman, which has won three consecutive Nevada large-school state titles, has rolled over Reed in both the 2009 and the 2011 state playoff affairs.
There’s no drop off in the 2012 edition of the Gaels. They sit 10-1 on the season and their only loss of the fall campaign came against Bergen Catholic of Oradell, NJ. Bishop Gorman has ripped off nine straight wins since that Sept. 14 home loss.
“I feel like we’ve been steadily improving,” Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “It’s been a good year. Offensively, we’re clicking, playing at a fast pace and eliminating mistakes. Defensively, we’re really starting to play well lately. Going into the playoffs, we were not creating turnovers and scoring on defense, but we’ve been better and that always helps this time of year, especially after the weather gets a little colder.”
Not much bothers Bishop Gorman. The Gaels have won their three playoff games by scores 78-13, 71-28 and 59-7. Those scores are eerily similar to the finals between the two most recent Reed-Gorman matchups. Gorman won a 2009 state semifinal at Reed 62-21 and then dumped the Raiders in the state title game last fall, 72-28.
Still, you won’t find anyone in the Reed camp hanging their heads about facing another David vs. Goliath matchup.
“I have loved our kids’ attitudes,” Howren said. “We’ve talked about the challenge in front of us. The kids have smiles on their faces. They look at this as a chance to compete for another week.
“I’m just so proud of our kids for putting themselves in this position three of the last four years. It happens to be that our opponent has been Gorman every time. They are so well coached. You watch them on film and there’s a reason they’re so highly ranked in the nation. They have some amazing young men playing for them. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
Sanchez, whose Gaels are ranked in the Top 20 in the nation by many publications, knows his team is good, but says there’s no magic formula for the private Catholic school’s success in recent years.
“We’ve had a good amount of talent,” he said. “We do a good job preparing our kids on a weekly basis. The kids have bought into our offseason program. So when you have talent, you get it to be disciplined, you have good work ethic and you get the opportunity to play good teams around the country, it gives you the chance to be a very good football team.”
So how can Reed find a way to even be competitive Saturday afternoon?
“We talked about it with the kids and the reality is when play a team like Gorman, you have to play the perfect game. Really, everything you do, from top to bottom, from the opening kickoff to every combo block must be spot on, text book,” Howren stressed.
Given the ability of both coaching staffs to watch film on each other and the two teams’ recent playoff meetings, there won’t be many surprises once kickoff rolls around.
“We’ve played them in the two games and seen them on film this year,” Sanchez said. “Offensively and defensively, their coaches get them lined up well. Reed plays hard and plays fast. Obviously, you plan for what you see but also you try to plan for some unexpected stuff because they’ll be ready.”
Howren and his Raiders coaching staff have been game-planning all week. That’s no easy task when the opponent is Bishop Gorman.
“You’re looking at what they do offensively and defensively; they don’t have lot of holes,” Howren said. “You’re always looking for something you can take advantage of. We’ve watched all three game films we have on them and putting together a game plan. We’ll try to take advantage of a couple things that might be there Saturday and then we’re working on the things that have gotten us to this point. At this point in the season, you don’t change who you are and what you do.”